Having a varied diet means eating a wide variety of different foods from the different food groups, as well as within each food group. Each food group offers a wide range of choices and each one has a unique nutritional value.
Diet diversity is well recognized as a key element of high quality diets, as it helps to ensure nutritional adequacy. When your child eats a variety of foods, it increases the likelihood of him or her getting the many types of nutrients which are important for growth and development. On the other hand, when there’s a lack of variety in your child’s diet (e.g. due to picky eating), it may lead to nutritional gaps.
Your child’s diet may not be as varied as you think if he consumes foods from the different food groups, but only goes for a particular food within each group; or if he eats seemingly many different foods, but they only come from one or two food groups.
Here are some tips for providing a balanced and varied diet:
1. Serve foods from the different food groups
According to the Health Promotion Board, there are 4 food groups:
- Brown rice and wholemeal bread
- Meat and others
2. Choose different foods within each food group
Each of the 4 main groups offers a wide range of food choices, and different foods within the same group can have different combinations of nutrients and other beneficial substances. Your child can achieve a healthful, nutritious eating pattern with by combining a variety of foods from within and across the food groups.
For example, some vegetables are good sources of vitamin C or vitamin A, while others may be high in folate. From the Meat & Others group, chicken provides vitamin B6 and iron, whereas milk supplies calcium and vitamin D. Choosing a variety of foods within each group also helps to make your meals more interesting from day to day.